It’s 10pm in the UK on a Saturday night, it’s pitch black outside and all you can hear are the sounds of the pouring rain and TV static. This could mean two things; it’s either a typical night in the UK and the weather is messing with your TV reception, or you’ve tuned in to watch The Devil Wears Prada premiere their exclusive streaming event ‘Undead Stream’, performing their brand new ‘ZII’ EP in its entirety for the first time. In this particular case it’s the latter, although it actually was also raining. British weather, eh?

For those unaware, ’ZII’ is a continuation of the band’s incredibly popular ‘Zombie’ EP narrative, first explored way back in 2010 when it quickly became one of their most loved works. Eleven years on and this new EP sees them reopen the door to that world, only to find that things have gotten far worse. The rich imagery and cinematic nature of the storytelling makes this streaming event the perfect accompaniment, and it becomes quickly clear that the band have pulled out all the stops to make its forty minutes as memorable and impactful as possible.

After a series of grainy VHS footage and Silent Hill-esque messages on screen, the picture fades into focus and the band get things immediately moving with ‘Dead Throne’ and ‘Born To Lose’, two big and bold bruisers from their 2011 album. A few things become clear straight away; lead vocalist Mike Hranica still has one of the most powerful and unique voices in the game, guitarist and singer Jeremy DePoyster is a note perfect angel and the immaculate audio mix highlighted how tight the band have become as a live unit in the last few years. Both songs have the weight of the album versions with the electricity of a live show coursing through them, and it perfectly set the tone for everything that followed.

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They flow seamlessly into ‘Worldwide’, an energetic and upbeat anthem with one of the catchiest choruses in their catalogue that, in a normal setting, would’ve had the adoring crowd screaming back the words. Followed by their enormous radio single ‘Chemical’ that provides momentary serenity and an early breather from all the punishment, and rounded off by the beautifully balanced ‘To The Key of Evergreen’, these first five songs act as a brief whistle-stop tour of how the band have grown over the last decade. Only fitting, then, that this stream ends with their newest material, showcasing that their heavy roots are still burrowing deeper.

The majority of the new EP was unheard at the time of the stream, making it one hell of a way to debut the material. They fade the visuals to pitch black, briefly displaying the ‘ZII’ logo over unsettling tones and then ripped straight into ‘Nightfall’ to kick off the EP play through. Hranica channels his inner demons into some spine-tingling screams, the lights frantically pulsing behind him as they bring the apocalypse onto the stage with them. EP highlight ‘Forlorn’ sees them continue down the same path, the perfectly blended vocals of Hranica, DePoyster and keyboardist Jonathan Gering taking centre stage during the songs more solemn and desperate moments.

 

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‘Termination’, an early fan favourite of the singles, sounds absolutely monstrous on the stream, Hranica’s cries of “the transfer begins” wrapping its fingers around your core while the intense musical landscape applies additional pressure. The light show is amazing, strobing and convulsing in all the right moments to immerse you in the chaos and panic of the narrative. ’Nora’ gives the rhythm section a chance to step forward, the unbelievably chunky bass tone of Mason Nagy cutting through the mix like a hot knife to butter whilst the thunderous drum work of Giuseppe Capolupo boosts its power.

Ending things on EP closer ‘Contagion’ highlights how perfect of a conclusion it is, both to the EP and the set. Lyrically it acts as a point of reflection for the events that preceded it and the music enhances that, highlighting the hopelessness and the sheer emotion encased within the narrative. The dramatic moments of the song translate so well into the live environment, every dynamic shift and surge of emotion connecting with absolute precision.

The attention to detail that has gone into putting this together makes it such an enjoyable watch. The transitions from song to song are so smooth and atmospheric, especially during the EP section of the stream. The light show is ever-changing and was almost like a seventh member of the band, adapting and shifting along with the music to enhance its cinematic elements. The sound is perfect too, delivering the adrenaline rush of a live show in all its raw and raucous glory with crisp and clear studio quality recording that makes every note connect with absolute precision.

The show stealer, though, is the pace of the setlist and the way the band perform it. The songs leading up to the play through of the EP warm up both the audience and the band, making the grand unveiling of the new material all the more exciting and punishing. The only thing missing from the stream is the audience itself, most noticeably missed when songs fade into complete silence with no appreciation or applause, but I hope the band know that there are thousands of people sitting at home with ear-to-ear grins, their eyes lovingly glued to their screens.

This streaming event is the closest I’ve felt to being at a gig since it was safe to attend one, and that feeling isn’t easy to replicate outside of its natural habitat. A powerful reminder of the rush of a live performance, and definitive proof that The Devil Wears Prada know how to put on one hell of a show. When they finally make their way back over to the UK, make sure you witness one for yourself.

DAVE STEWART

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